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No sexual health lead despite PrEP roll-out

The HSE has no date yet for the appointment of a new clinical lead for sexual health.

“The HSE has received confirmation from the consultant applications advisory committee that it has approved the appointment of a medical director for sexual health. This confirmation was received in July 2019,” an Executive spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI).

“Clarity is currently being sought from the advisory committee on the qualifications for eligibility to apply for the position.”

The HSE confirmed that the “medical director” role is the same as that of “sexual health clinical lead”.

Last month, citing an article in MI from October 2018 which reported the HSE’s intention to appoint a new lead, Act Up Dublin member Mr Andrew Leavitt (@arleavitt) tweeted: “Ireland’s national PrEP programme is set to start up on 4 November, but we still don’t have a national clinical lead for sexual health in place. HSE needs to stop foot-dragging and fill this critical position without further delay.”

HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is available through the HSE from 4 November free of charge for those who are at substantial risk of sexual acquisition of HIV in Ireland.

The HSE sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme (SHCPP) and HIV PrEP working group have developed national standards for the delivery and management of PrEP in Ireland and clinical management guidance for individuals taking PrEP. Information for service providers is available at www.sexualwellbeing.ie/prepproviders.

In October 2018, the HSE told this newspaper it was “seeking to recruit a clinical lead in sexual health during the coming months”. It said there would be time allocated to clinical practice in the post.

Dr Fiona Lyons, Consultant in Genitourinary and HIV Medicine at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, was appointed as the first clinical lead for sexual health in 2015 and departed from the position last year.

Dr Fiona Lyons

Meanwhile, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has launched the roll-out of the national condom distribution service in third-level settings.

Third-level institutions can now order free condom dispensers from the HSE, which will enable the provision of free condoms and sexual health information to students on campuses nationwide.

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